Everything works better if people move together. Roads flow, orchestras play, schoolchildren face the front, rugby teams carry the ball in the right direction, ballets are performed without catastrophe. Businesses run, too. Whatever kind of business it may be, however large or small, any organisation can gain from having a workforce that moves together and knows where it's heading and how to get there.

After all, there will be much that staff members have to do in order for the business to operate and progress. It's important, therefore, that time is not wasted doing unnecessary activities, that the needed tasks are performed at the right time and within the appointed schedule and budget. Where employees do not co-operate, where time is not put to good use and where there is a lack of clarity in plans and ends, money and resources will inevitable end up being put to uses which give no benefit to the company whatsoever. These details can make the difference between a successful, profitable company that grows and progresses and one that struggles and fails. How then is the best way to take control of time and effort? Microsoft Project can help.

Let's say, for example, that you run a medium-sized enterprise and are having a complete IT overhaul at your offices. Your existing computers are obsolete and the software you need to make your company run more efficiently is too much for your old computers to cope with. To this end, you need to purchase the new hardware, put it together, install the software and train your staff to use it. It goes without saying that these tasks need to be completed in the right order and to schedule and it's not difficult to keep tabs on four activities which tangibly need to follow one another. But what if your staff need to be doing something rather more complex?

Perhaps your company is moving to a newly built office. For the organisation that constructs the offices, there will be an enormous number of tasks to be completed. Some of these tasks will need to come before others - the foundations must be dug before the roof goes on - whereas others will run concurrently to save time and resources. With Microsoft Project, the schedule and order of these tasks can be precisely laid out, no matter how many there may be. Tasks can be divided into phases (known as 'summary tasks'), to help understand the intention of each part of the project. Milestones can be added to mark significant points in the process. Relationships can be created, ensuring that the commencement of one task is conditional upon a different task being completed. If one of these tasks seems likely to run behind schedule, then the knock-on effect on the whole project can be seen immediately.

In those relationships and those knock-on effects, lies a key value in using Project to monitor how your organisation is progressing towards its goal. Whatever kind of project your business is embarking upon, whether a small matter of introducing new IT systems, the rather larger process of building an entire office or anything you can imagine a business involving itself with, money will be lost if the project does not stay within its constraints. Scope creep is an ever-present risk and if one task grows, taking more time and resources then planned, then those tasks that follow it will be similarly pushed out. As a result the whole project expands, running over time and over budget. If we look again at the construction company, this can be absolutely critical; the organisation or individual who contracted for the building to be erected will do so with the specific intention of it being ready for use or letting at a very specific point. To not have the work finished on time and to run over budget, creates a very real risk of the company developing a poor reputation that prevents the winning of future business. With Project, however, strict limits on time and resources are presented clearly and visually and can be relied on to be non-contradictory and fully inclusive of all relevant considerations.

That clear, visual presentation can also be shared amongst the staff with ease. Project is of course fully compatible with all Microsoft Office software, and the charts you create to illustrate your schedules and budgets can be easily transferred into a Word document, a PowerPoint presentation, or a Visio document and then shared between all concerned members of staff or management. You can also create a calendar from your chart, distribute it around your staff and move on safe in the knowledge that everyone is aware of what they're supposed to be doing and when.

This knowledge, this awareness, is a key to the success of any business. With Project, and you might consider a short training course to ensure you get the most out of the software, you can get all your staff moving as one and carrying the organisation onto a brighter future.